I’m still trekking through the Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers on audio book, so I come to A CLOSED AND COMMON ORBIT, narrated by the lovely Patricia Rodriguez and this stand alone sequel to the previous book, was honestly, somewhat of a mixed bag.
The reader is re-introduced to Lovelace, the Wayfarer’s AI, who was rebooted at the end of the previous novel, and she has no memory of what has previously occurs. In order to not cause the crew pain, she leaves with Pepper, an energetic engineer. The pair go on to discover that despite beginning their lives in the galaxy-wide community they inhabit, it can only take a person to fill all that space up.
Chambers returns with another somewhat lighthearted romp through her galactic community she introduced us to in THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL, ANGRY PLANET, which I reviewed some weeks ago. I was saddened that we weren’t returning to the crew of the Wayfarer itself, but I did enjoy Pepper’s spunk and character a bit from the past story. Again, Chambers pulls another turn and puts us in this essentially blank slate of Lovelace, who becomes “Sindra” now in the body kit that Jenks had brought along for the previous iteration of Lovelace.
This isn’t a terrible jolt, and it becomes a thorough examination of how a person can feel when their “mind” does not match their body. Sindra is consistently frustrated with her limited capacities and never refers to her body as her own, only as “the kit.” The frustration and isolation that she feels as the story goes on is sad and brings the reader closer to the narrative, which is much slower and plodding, which is only helped by the parallel narrative of Jane-23.
This is a rather large spoiler, but the book is broken into two parallel stories. I would have been fine if Chambers had actually gotten rid of the Sindra/Pepper story-line, but it’s there primarily for linking material. This story dealing with Jane-23, is a story of abuse, abandonment, and survival as she escapes a factory where clones of herself work, under the watchful eye of robotic “Mothers.” Much of this isn’t clear at first, since we have a close POV of Jane-23, but if you were following closely in the previous book, we know that this “Jane” is actually Pepper.
I won’t entirely spoil the ending, but the way these two stories link in the end is rather endearing and touching in a way that only Chambers does so well. There is still the sense of disconnect of why she felt this story needed to be told at all, considering that the previous book made us care about the Wayfarer crew only to then leave them.
I’m hoping the third book answers this question, but all in all, this was a fun, character-driven, somewhat cozy adventure. If any of that appeals to you, do not miss out!